The west of Ireland has long been a magnet for writers, artists, playwrights and musicians – all inspired by the soft light, the gentle mists and almost ethereal scenery, so let yourself be enchanted.
Day 1 – Connemara
Leave Newport, County Mayo, along the shore of Clew Bay, on the N59 south for Connemara, County Galway. Stop at Kylemore Abbey, beautifully situated overlooking a lake. Originally a millionaire’s mansion, it’s now home to Ireland’s Benedictine nuns. Spend the rest of your day exploring Connemara. In the mountains of the National Park, you’ll find adventure sports galore, or you can take the easier option and laze on any one of the sparkling white beaches that fringe the coastline. We recommend an overnight stay in the pretty fishing village of Roundstone, County Galway.
Total Mileage: 63 miles
Day 2 – The Burren
Follow the N59 from Roundstone leading to Galway city, which enjoys a strong artistic heritage and boasts a rich arts and culture scene, so take time out to wander around before getting back in the car. Find your way to the N18 and R460 and head towards The Burren in County Clare, which boasts a magical Karst limestone landscape scattered with ancient settlements, tombs, and enchanting flora and fauna. The Cliffs of Moher to the west are unmissable and literally bring you to the edge of the world. Lahinch, a little to the south, is a good place to overnight, with yet another amazing beach that surfers will adore.
Total mileage: 110 miles
Day 3 – Doolin
From Lahinch, it’s a short drive north to Doolin, which is often referred to as the capital of Irish traditional music. After you’ve tapped your feet to the sound of the bodhran (small Irish drum) and fiddle, make your way to the harbour, park the car and catch the ferry to the Aran islands. Just 20 minutes later, you’ll find yourself besotted by the warm and wonderful sense of tradition here, with a wild beauty that captures the soul. Try to spend the day exploring the islands and their landscapes of limestone rock. A veritable outdoor museum of artefacts and cultural importance, the first language is Gaelic, but the failte (welcome) goes far beyond words. Overnight on the islands or in Doolin, County Clare the choice is yours.
Total mileage 12 miles
Day 4 – Sligo
On to Sligo from Doolin, using the N67, N18 and N17. Ancient history lovers may wish to divert to the Ceide Fields site at Carrowmore, County Mayo. It will extend today’s journey considerably but as this is Ireland’s largest megalithic site boasting over 60 tombs, plus a fascinating heritage centre relaying tales of our ancestors from 200 generations ago, it is definitely worth it. Next stop is Sligo town, which has a long and enviable literary heritage. The town’s most famous son was the poet WB Yeats, and the surrounding area is full of reminders as to why he was so inspired to write his beautiful works. Yeats is buried at Drumcliff just to the north of Sligo town, with his grace marked in the shadow of Benbulben Mountain. You may also want to wander around nearby Lissadell House and Gardens, an inspiration for the poet, who often spent time there.
Total mileage: 145 miles
Day 5 – Donegal and Derry
From Sligo town, journey north to Donegal along the scenic N15 coastal road. Break your journey with lunch in pretty Donegal town, which lies along the River Eske and sports the Bluestack Mountains as an impressive backdrop. Then go eastbound on the N56 and R263 to Slieve League to marvel at Europe’s highest sea cliffs. Head inland again to Glenveagh National Park – this huge area of mountain, lake and forest is a great place to spot wildlife – from red deer to recently re-introduced Golden Eagles – and marks a beautiful end to your journey.
It’s a relatively short trip on the N56 east through Letterkenny, and then the N13 and A2 to Derry, where you can relax and unwind in some of the city’s excellent pubs and restaurants before heading home.
Total Mileage: 127 miles